win for losing
Idaho public schools are trapped in a
dilemma that provides a classic case study of what’s known as a Catch-22, "the
circumstance or rule that denies a solution."
Showing every classic symptom of a
neurotic hostility toward education, the Republican-controlled Idaho Legislature
spent some of its record and chaotic 118-day session concocting more mischievous
legislation to make education the state’s most thoroughly politically abused
For starters and for at least the fifth
legislative session, the Legislature’s anti-schools bloc refused to approve a
state constitutional change allowing a 60 percent simple majority vote to
approve school bonds instead of 66 percent.
Schools have been begging for this change
since at least 1992 to make it easier to raise funds locally that the
Legislature—surprise—won’t appropriate. (This is the political equivalent of the
Catch-22 conservative doctrine in some religious circles of opposing abortions
then also opposing public funding of contraceptives to reduce pregnancies.)
To add to education’s suffocating Catch-22
stranglehold, lawmakers resorted to dirty tricks—they wrote special-interest
legislation prohibiting school districts as a group from suing the state, thus
trying to remove themselves from a court order to appropriate tens of millions
of dollars for school facilities.
Now taxpayers know what Idaho’s public
schools face on top of the usual operating problems: a Republican Legislature
that (a) shortchanges education on funding, (b) then prevents school districts
from meeting needs by opposing a more reasonable simple majority vote on bond
issues and (c) wants to tie education’s hands from collecting when it sues and
wins a court order for adequate state funding.
There’s more that should anger parents as
well as infuriate Idaho’s business community, which expects more grown up
behavior than it’s getting from state lawmakers in this growing state.
Because legislators didn’t complete their
work in the usual 100 days, and remained in session 18 more working days to
argue, dawdle, hem and haw, cut and fill, posture and prattle, taxpayers shelled
out another $27,000 for each additional day in legislative costs—about $486,000.
The likelihood is that the Legislature will be called back into session this
summer to deal with more budget problems.
How many textbooks, leaky classroom roofs
or teachers’ salaries could that pay for?
How sad that education, the source of
knowledge, is so shortchanged while the Legislature, the source of such stunted
thinking, is over-funded.